Rowing since age 11, senior Bailey Leist from Steinbrenner High School always dreamed of going far with the sport of dragon boating, but she never imagined that she’d be rowing on the U.S. Women’s Team at only 17. Representing the U.S., Leist and her team rowed to victory – taking home six bronze medals and one silver – in the 14th International Dragon Boat Federation World Dragon Boating Championships in Pattaya, Thailand.  

“Our club does really well, so we like to travel to get better competition, since there’s not much competition in Florida,” said Leist.

This international competition was held against 30 other countries and competed against 4,000 athletes. This competition, being the first for her out of the country, Leist recounted where the team has traveled together in the US. They have visited various places with her club crew including California, Vancouver, and Philadelphia.

“I have outrigger canoe 6 practice, which is like practice but with six people on Sundays, when we do about ten miles on the water, and then I have dragon boat practice three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and we do about five or six miles… I honestly try to go to the gym whenever I can,” said Leist.  

But with all of the travel and practice spent with her team, Leist rarely has time with herself. The practice taking a lot of time and energy not just from her week itself, but with her life outside of dragon boating as well.

“I do have a part-time job, and I take a lot of AP classes so it does get hard to balance sometimes… but for me, I’ve always found I like to be busy all the time. And it’s just so much easier for me to be go-go-go instead of sitting around and doing nothing,” said Leist.

Leist mentioned that due to the amount of time she’s missed she will be going on a month-long break to catch up with the things she’s hasn’t been able to spend time on. However, she did express that she’d have it no other way.

When asked about her most gratifying memory of her career, Leist humbly accounted that every moment has been no more exciting from the last, mentioning the many different wins her team has come across and the hope for many more in the future. She did mention her rise to stronger teams as a personal accomplishment.

“Our team always gets gold; we always do really well. I would say the only exciting part for me is making my way onto our mixed roster,” said Leist.

The mixed roster being made up of adults twenty years older than her, meaning that every time she makes the team, she is competing against adults, and beating them to one of the ten open spots on the boat, a huge accomplishment for someone her age. 

“My parents are always very supportive and my coach. He’s always pushed me to the next level, it’s insane because he’s almost like a second dad to me. He’s really been the mentor guiding me through the whole process,” said Leist.

Her goals she set out would be to make the premier team for the Olympics team, receiving the help of both her parents and her coach.

Leist did say that during her break she will still be going to the gym to keep up with the competition for when she goes back and is looking forward to the next season of dragon boating to come. 

Gianna DeMalteris // Staff Writer

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